While the PGA Tour Champions is catching flak for its playoff system, one that enabled Kevin Sutherland’s sole victory to defeat Bernhard Langer’s marvellous seven-win campaign, there won’t be any controversy involved with the European Tour’s Race to Dubai coronation this week.
Unlike its US PGA Tour counterpart – where a Tour Championship win from the top five players in the FedEx Cup standings guarantees a playoff victory, and all 30 competitors in the East Lake field own a scenario at the trophy – only three enter the Euro finale DP World Tour Championship with a shot at the postseason crown. Here is the trio in that chase, and what they have to do (according to the European Tour) to cross the finish line:
This season has already been a revelation for the Spaniard, finally brushing off that pesky Major monkey from his back. But Garcia’s 2017 has been more than just his Masters triumph, logging wins at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and Andalucía Valderrama Masters.
Alas, because the 37-year-old appeared in just 12 European Tour events, he faces a substantial deficit at Jumeirah Golf Estates. Garcia not only needs to win, he’ll need help from Justin Rose (T-4 or worse) and Tommy Fleetwood (outside the top 20). Considering the limited field, a bit unlikely, which is why the Euro Tour’s forecast model gives Garcia just a three percent chance at victory.
That Rose finds himself in this position is a testament to a late-season push. Following his playoff defeat at Augusta, the only other European performance of merit was a T-4 at the Irish Open until three weeks ago. But the Englishman mounted a charge off back-to-back victories at the WGC-HSBC and Turkish Airlines Open, and enters the season-ending event second in the standings.
Rose remains a relative long shot, but does have a viable path to the title. A win would be enough for the Race to Dubai, as would a solo second (assuming Fleetwood doesn’t finish first). After that, the window shrinks; the worst possible finish for a theoretical Rose win is fifth. The European Tour’s website gives him a 23 percent chance of pulling it off.
A straightforward proposition for Fleetwood, who enjoyed a career rejuvenation this season with two wins, two runner-ups and a T-4 at the US Open. Entering Dubai atop the standings, Fleetwood will be the champ as long as Rose doesn’t finish in the top five and Garcia doesn’t win. Even if Rose finds himself in the top five, matching or bettering the Olympic gold medallist would be enough for Fleetwood.
And don’t envision Fleetwood to falter: he’s posted five consecutive top-25 finishes, including a T-10 at last week’s Nedbank Challenge. The clear favourite – the forecast gives him a 73 percent chance at a win – expect the 26-year-old Fleetwood to add another chapter to his comeback story this week.